Movie to stage adaptations (and vice versa) can be problematic and unsatisfying, somehow never quite living up to the original medium. I will admit to being a Rain Man virgin, never having seen the 2008 film, starring Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise. That may just be an advantage when reviewing the current tour adapted for the stage by Dan Gordon.
The story concerns Charlie Babbitt, an odious, egotistical car dealer on the verge of bankruptcy, who assumes that his financial problems are solved when his estranged, wealthy father dies. However, the $12 million inheritance has been bequeathed to a brother, Raymond, of whose existence Charlie was unaware. Raymond Babbitt is an institutionalised autistic savant, whose curse may be that ''he cannot forget anything''. An angry Charlie imagines his brother's condition can be exploited to his financial advantage.
The play charts the journey the brothers make - both physical, a road trip to LA after Charlie abducts Raymond from his care home, and emotional, as he learns to love his ''retard'' brother. For Raymond the journey is certainly not about a cure, for there is none, but that changes can happen as the man who cannot bear to be touched begins to have some physical contact and the make connections, that his doctor, solidly played by Charles Lawson, doesn't believe he is capable of.
This production, fluidly directed by Robin Herford and impressively designed by Jonathan Fenson, benefits from two extremely strong, equally balanced central performances. As Raymond, Neil Morrissey, gives a nuanced, sensitive performance, demonstrating the verbal and physical manifestations without losing sight of the real character behind them. Oliver Chris has perhaps the more difficult role, as Charlie is, at least initially, deeply unpleasant. His conversion to caring brother may happen a little too quickly but Chris is very impressive.
Perhaps the play overdoes the sentimentality and oversimplifies a hugely complicated disorder but it is funny, touching and worthwhile. I imagine many in the audience will have seen the film, and perhaps miss the visual element of the road journey, but the actors received a deservedly rapturous reception from the King's audience on opening night in Edinburgh.
- Keith Paterson